The data on Google Trends, a website by Google that analyses the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages, has revealed that interest in atheism and curiosity about it across the world is at its lowest currently.
Atheism, in general, is the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. In the broadest sense, atheism is an absolute absence of belief in the existence of God. It is distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question of whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.
Here are trends for atheism from across the world, including India:
The analysis of search queries from around the world as reflected on Google Trends reveals that there is a veritable decline in the concept of atheism over the year. The interest in atheism throughout the world was at its zenith during the 2004-2006 period but it gradually waned in the following years, with 2021 being the year with the lowest search interest.
The United States
The trend for search queries on atheism in the United States for the same time period is starkly similar to the curve depicted for the entire world. In America, the interest in atheism was at its peak during 2004 as the spike in the below graph shows there were a greater number of people searching for atheism then than the number of people currently captivated by the concept.
In India too, interest in atheism is slightly higher than the all-time low, which was registered during the period from May 2015 to early 2021. The graph of Google Trends shows enthusiasm about atheism was at its summit during the first decade of the 21st century. The intermittent spikes in the curve show that there was considerable interest in atheism in India until 2010 after which it sharply declined and continues to remain at lower levels.
The United Kingdom
The graph for the United Kingdom, however, is rather intriguing. In the early 2000s, the trend for interest in atheism apes the worldwide trend, with the highest being registered in the period between 2004 to 2006. The interest in atheism over the next few years was on the wane, but it was nevertheless substantial. Only after 2015, the trend takes a steep downturn, hinting that the concept of atheism was losing currency among the Britons. Interestingly, this was the time when the United Kingdom was polarised by the Brexit deal and had eventually voted out of the European Union.
Atheism in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has always been almost non-existent, perhaps because Islam forbids apostasy and instructs strict punishment for atheists. The Google Trends data seems to reinforce this assertion. The data shows Pakistanis have not been enamoured by the concept of atheism and the search interest has remained at the lowest levels for most years, barring a few occasional spikes.
The reason behind the decline of interest in atheism may be many, given that some of its biggest advocates such as Sam Harris have fallen victim to the Trump Derangement Syndrome. The lack of interest in atheism does not automatically translate to a decline in atheism and rise in religiosity either. However, Google Trends does indicate that people’s curiosity or interest regarding atheism is showing a decline.
Furthermore, one of the biggest claims of the atheists during the first decade of the 21st century was that religion was particularly responsible for most of the evil that persists in the world today. But given the manner in which the biggest violators of human rights in the world today are China, a Communist state, and USA, a secular state, even atheists perhaps realise that they cannot continue making the same arguments in good faith.
With the destabilization of the Middle East by USA in the second decade of the century, the steam went out of the ‘atheist movement’ and people realised that most problems in the world today are not a consequence of an answer to the single question, “Do you believe in the existence of God?” In short, people have moved well past the fad that acquired momentum in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack.